· 8 min read ·
Building something new, something you believe in, is exhilarating 🚀 🔥 🔥. It’s a feeling, a rush like no other ❤️ . But building something only for this feeling is not something all of us can afford. Like I’ve said before there will always be more you want to do than the resources you have. One way to manage that is by fiercely prioritizing your work. An extension of the concept of prioritization is the idea of Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
MVP is prioritizing what you need to build to test if it’s worth investing in.
The concept of MVP was developed by Eric Ries. According to him “minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of with the least effort. MVP can mean different things in different organizations. Sometimes what is called an MVP is not really an MVP 😅 . We will talk about it later in detail.
In layman terms MVP is building the most basic version of your product with only the core functionality and without the bells and whistles.
What’s up with all the acronyms!! 😵💫 😵💫 . Well, now that we know what an MVP means let’s look at the things that it is NOT but often confused with.
Proof of Concept(POC)
The goal of POC is to find out if it is possible to build out the idea into an actual product with the technology available. POC is helpful if you are innovating and trying to do something that has not been done before. A POC doesn’t even need a UI.
As long as you can prove the technical feasibility using your dev console its enough 👩💻
A prototype tells you how the user will interact with the product. It defines the flow of various elements and how their users will use them to solve their problem.
Minimum Marketable Product(MMP)
It is the smallest version of the product that users will buy. It is the stripped down, no frills, stable version of the product that has enough value in it to be sold.
MMP is the result of multiple iterations of an MVP.
In essence you can look at these as different stages in the evolution of your MVP. Depending on your product you might skip one stage or another.
You have an idea you want to validate in the market and have decided to take the MVP route. Sounds like you are on the right track. You create specs for what you think is the bare minimum. But how can you be sure that it is in fact an MVP and not something else. A good way to do that is for you and your team to ask the following questions when looking at the proposed product:
The intention behind these questions is to find the right balance between the three variables that make up an MVP:
Is the goal to get it right with your first MVP? Absolutely not 🙅
The primary goal of an MVP is to help you learn whether your idea appeals to the customers.
The first version of your product that customers buy will most likely not be the first version of the MVP you build.
An MVP doesn’t end with just one release. It follows a cycle driven by real world data based on how customers behave with the MVP. Let’s look at the three steps.
You build the basic version of the product you think will work. “You think” here is your hypothesis/gut based on the research you have done or the experiences you have had. Make sure that you add relevant tracking to your product so that you can proactively track your metrics instead of it being an afterthought 🤪 .
Be clear about:
Cannot stress enough on the part that “How” should be part of the build phase. You shouldn’t be in a situation that your MVP has been out for a month before you decide to track important metrics
Besides quantitative measurement you can also gauge your MVP through qualitative feedback. Some ways to do it are:
Your MVP has been out for a few weeks now. You’ve got the data and have been speaking to customers. How do you decipher the results? See if you are able to answer the following by looking at the data:
Based on the answers to the above questions you will know the next steps. There are many different possibilities here:
An MVP will help you test your hypothesis in an efficent manner. It forces you to take your long term vision of what your product needs to do and filter it down to its core competency which is at the center of its existence. Through an MVP you:
MVPs are tough to get right. What’s tougher is to stomach what you learn from the MVP. Because sometimes the MVP will tell you that your idea is not worth investing in. And that can be tough thing to hear even for a battle hardened product management professional 🥷 . Lets list down the challenges:
Cutting feature scope to get out the “minimum”
This can happen when you are:
Forgetting that MVPs aren’t as polished as well established products
We all look at the MVP definition and collectively nod our head in agreement. But when it comes down to giving the go ahead to release it we forget that its not the final product. It’s just a test. We start nitpicking on how it looks and the feature set we have.
Step 1: Develop your hypothesis
You might have it all figured out in your head but it’s important to sit down and write your hypothesis:
“If we provide the users X” then “Y” will happen”
Take the time out to define “X”. Do your market research and talk to your customer facing teams to see if the hypothesis seems plausible.
Look at any historical data in your company or outside that can help you come up with a realistic “Y”
Step 2: Identify your target users
The long-term vision for your product might be for a number of different types of users. But for an MVP it is important to focus on early adopters. These are people who are more likely to be open to try out new things and pave the way(influence) for others to try it out in the future.
Step 3: Gauge the market opportunity
Does the market opportunity align with your business goals? Look at what exists in the market today. Are the alternatives, substitutes in the market that solve the same problem? If yes, then do a deep dive into what they offer and how does your product differentiate from the competition.
Step 4: Evaluate the technical feasibility
During the MVP stage an important thing to consider is whether you really need to completely build the product from ground up. If you can buy the underlying technology or partner with someone then that is great. It will help you focus your resources on the key differentiator of your product. For example- If your MVP requires you to send notifications to users then should you build that capability from scratch. No, unless it’s the key differentiators. Use a third party who knows how to do it and it’s their key differentiator 💡.
Step 5: Build Measure Learn (BML)
Iterate using the build measure learn framework to develop the MVP that gives you the user validation you are looking for
What if you don’t have the resources to even build an MVP right now.? Or you are not able to convince the business that there is enough demand for your idea? There are a few easy non-tech heavy ways to do that:
Create high fidelity screens and stitch them together to convey how the user experience would look like. This method needs zero development effort. Now use the flow that you have created and get feedback from users to gauge their interest.
Product Introduction Video
You can talk through what your product will do through a video. Talk about what problem you are trying to solve, who will benefit from it and how it will work. See if it results in any traction.
Online Ad ( Google , Facebook, Instagram etc.)
Create a compelling online ad. Do the keyword research to find which ones resonate with your customers. Develop atleast a few different versions of the ad. Find out which platform do target users use and run ads on them for a few days (depending on the budget and cost per click for the keyword 💸 💸 💸). Analyse the traffic you get to find the demand for the product. Use it to decide if an MVP makes sense.
It’s very easy to create compelling landing pages these days. Unbounce is a great tool for it. Create a “coming soon” page for your product. Ask users to share their contact information if they would like to be one of the first few to get their hands on it. Share the page on relevant social media channels, forums etc. to get traffic to that page. If you have the budget then create the online Ad discussed above to get paid traffic to the landing page. This will again help you gauge the demand for your product or service.